National Orthopaedic Hospital, Igbobi Lagos (NOHIL) has sacked two female nurses for wearing hijab while on duty.
The nurses Mrs Fasilat Olayinka Lawal and Miss Sekinat Sanusi, relied on the prescription of their regulatory body, the Nursing and Midwifery Council of Nigeria which says nurses should either wear nurse cap or shoulder length hijab as contained in a circular dated February 11, 2002 (reference number N&MCN/CMF/721/1/3).
The circular which was signed by P. N. Ndatsu, Secretary General/Registrar was said to have been sent to all Directors of Nursing and their deputies, chief Medical Directors, chief Executives, and Principals.
In anticipation of the action of the hospital management, the victims approached the court to obtain injunction against further actions by the management of the NOHIL, But this did not deter the hospital management as the two nurses were sacked a few days ago.
Narrating how it happened, Mrs Lawal said she accepted the offer based on the circular of Nursing and Midwifery Council of Nigeria prescribing a shoulder length hijab which she expected the hospital to comply with.
When Vanguard contacted the Medical Director, NOHIL, Dr. O.Odunibi on phone for comments, he declined saying “the matter is already in court and we have been told not to comment on the matter.”
A senior Muslim nurse in the hospital who crave anonimity told Vanguard that they were not wearing hijab merely because no circular was given to them to that effect. She maintained that the development was an eye-opener to other Muslim nurses in the hospital.
“I assumed duty on February 25, 2014, at the commencement of the one month orientation, I was told to remove my hijab but I insisted presenting a copy of a circular from Nursing and Midwifery Council of Nigeria to the head of Nursing Department, Mrs Adebowale, hence I was allowed to do the orientation wearing hijab,” Mrs Lawal said.
“I completed the orientation on March 23, 2014 and resumed duty fully in uniform on Monday March 24, 2014 and I was told that I was not properly dressed as I was using hijab and not a nurse cap.
“On April 8, 2014, I wrote a letter of protest to the Medical Director copying Minister for Health, Minister for State for Health and Board Chairman, National Orthopeadic Hospital Igbobi Lagos and Nursing and Midwifery Council of Nigeria.”
“On April 9, 2014, I was given a query dated April 8, 2014 to explain why disciplinary action should not be instituted against me for insubordination by not wearing Nurse uniform which I replied with a letter dated April 9, 2014 and since April 10, 2014 I have not been allowed to work or even sign the attendance register, we were told to stay outside the Director of Administrator’s office by the Chairman of National Association of Nigerian Nurses and Midwife (NANNM).
“On April 11, 2014, we were given two letters, one from the Director of Administration summoning us to a disciplinary committee on Monday April 14, 2014 and another from the Assistant Director of Nursing calling our attention to some so called facts.
“On the April 14, 2014, we were at the panel/ disciplinary committee and was told to have a rethink of removing our hijab within 24hrs and get back to the committee the following day at 10:00am to avoid a disciplinary action taken against us.”
“We immediately sort a legal advice since we were determined not to remove our hijab and decided to proceed to court to stop any diciplinary actions taken against us and also seek redress on the violation on our fundamental human rights and be allowed to work and wear our hijabs without hindrance as permitted by Nursing and Midwifery Council of Nigeria, the only body permitted by law to regulate the Nursing Profession in Nigeria.
“We were further prevented from entering the ward and carrying out our official duty, we wrote another letter to the Medical Director in the afternoon of April 15, 2014 notifying him of the situation.”
“On April 17, 2014, a letter was written to the Medical Director by our Lawyer informing him of the implication of their actions of not allowing us to work and if the situation persists a contempt proceeding would be commenced against them. The situation continued that way without been allowed to work until April 23, 2014 when we were given a memo to appear before the Hospital Management Board by 10:00am.”
“We met with the board and was told that by not removing our hijab we have committed an act of insurbodination and disobedience which is punishable by the law of public service.
“We were asked if we were ready to retrace our steps by removing our hijab and we responded that we can not remove our hijab and moreso the matter is in court and we cannot take any further step without informing our lawyer.
“Later that day (April 23, 2014) we were issued a letter of termination of service,” she narrated.
Meanwhile, the Muslim Lawyers Association of Nigeria, MULAN, has described the termination of employment of the two muslim nurses as ‘wrongful dismissal’.
The Chairman of the association, Barrister Musadiq Adunni Sanni said the nurses have right to complain and also have the right to institute legal action if their fundamental human rights were infringed upon.
“It is wrongful dismissal. What I think they should have done is to wait on the court before taking a decision.”
“This is a labour matter and if the institution allows it, then the court will have to decide who is wrong.”
“I also think they don’t have respect for the rule of law and we are not happy that a Federal Institution like that would go that way.”
Speaking on a similar case of hijab involving a student who was punished because she wore hijab while in school, Barrister Sanni stated that although there is a proposal for out of court settlement, the condition was not favourable to the Muslims.
“Just last Tuesday, the state maintained that it only limited the use of hijab to the Mosque on Fridays during Jumat and also during Zhur and Asr prayers, but we are not happy with that; our interest is total use of hijab. We are still on it and we are going to argue our case insha-Allah,” he stressed. [Vanguard]